I sat down and read the book from cover-to-cover last night and have some thoughts, some good and some bad. I will buy just about any book about pinball so this was an easy order for me even with the $30 price. I will just bullet point some thoughts, I don't have the book in front of me but will try to do it from memory.
* The paper is almost newsprint like, very thin and both non-spine corners on my copy were crumpled from mailing.
* I am not sure who wrote what in this book. At Pinball Expo I talked with Todd and was under the impression that he was writing a series of ten books but there is no author on the cover and on the copyright page it lists three writers with Todd being the third listed. None of the chapters are attributed to any particular author, some you can tell are Todd and others are not. Even the preface is not credited.
* There are three authors credited and three listed editors, two of which are also credited as writers (Todd was not listed as an editor). I am not sure if they did any actual traditional editing but I would guess the most they did was to proof read each others work for major mistakes. What I mean by this is that there are not a lot of spelling mistakes but there are sentence structure issues, incorrect use of words, and paragraphs that could be reworked for clarity or deleted all together.
* Each of the featured pins has its own chapter with photos of the tables, a copy of the flyer or advertisement and maybe a close-up of a particularly cool item. The actual layout of each chapter is pretty nice. Tables are grouped by manufacturer and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to which machines were featured in this first book. Only one EM was included and the rest of the tables seemed to be chosen almost at random.
* I am conflicted on who this book is targeted at. With Todd's laid-back humor I thought this would be a great series of books for casual fans of pinball for cool stories and interesting tidbits about the machines. What I got instead was a book aimed at the hardcore pinball fan with little narrative flow or logical progression through the tables. Take the very first table as an example, Atari's giant sized Hercules. I know about this table and you know about this table and what it is and how it is unique. Unfortunately the chapter starts not with a description of the machine and what makes it unique from a players point of view but it instead talks about how Atari had the insides of their pinball machines laid out with the boards on the bottom of the cabinet and the issues it brought for operators. After two-thirds of the first page talking about this issue it is then revealed that Hercules fixed this issue and the reader is left wondering why it was even included. Further on into the chapter it starts to talk about the unique qualities of the machine but the flow of the chapter is all over the place. It almost feels like someone recorded a panel with Todd talking about different machines and just transcribed the talk without reformatting the information in a readable format. This is why I mentioned about that the editors did not seem to do much actual editing and this chapter could have been reworked into a much better reading format with a little effort.
* Some chapters are really nice with a good flow and interesting information. Others are just a page or two about suggested maintenance to the machine, you never know what you are getting from one chapter to the next. Sometimes even within one chapter it gets conflicting. Amazon Hunt from Gottlieb is one that sticks out as being described differently within the same chapter. Some of the machine talk about production numbers that conflict with the number stated on the splash page for the machine, I think Amazon Hunt was one where the text states they sold around 400 units and the splash showed a much larger number.
* Even though the book is 230 pages, the stories make up less than 2/3 of the book and the rest is pinball maintenance articles, a brief history of pinball, brief looks at each companies history and some other small features. I would have started with the brief history and then put each companies history section prior to the machines featured from that company. The rest of the special features could have been used to break up the groupings of manufacturers to make a more pleasant reading layout.
* When Todd talks about his experiences with customers and the general life of buying, selling and repairing pinball machines that is where the book really shines and you are left wanting more of that and less of the fifteen pages of text about repairing motherboards from various manufactures. That information is all available online and feels more like padding then a benefit for this book. I also would have liked more photos of Todd through the years and the machines he worked on. Its great when he puts prices to machine he bought and sold, really gives you an idea of how the market has changed. Since he also had "boots on the ground" during the height of the pinball boom he gives a unique perspective on what the operators were thinking. His chapter of Cirqus Voltaire in particular was interesting in how operators saw the machine as a sure-fire all-time hit in the making and then the actual response.
So in summary, it feels like a book trapped between two different ideas. One is a technical book full of tips and tech talk for hardcore owners that probably doesn't give enough to satisfy them as only a few items for each machine are covered and not a comprehensive look at each machines issues. The second is using one the pinball communities best personalities to tell stories about the industry and discuss some of the most popular and interesting machines it has released. I don't think either group will be fully satisfied with the book; will tech-heads pull down the book off the shelf to troubleshoot a machine or will non-machine owners continue to pay $30 for a book that is half technical repair information? The way the series is presented by featuring themes of machines gives it a more casual feel then a technical feel but that betrays what it actually is. If you want information on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein will you go to the horror edition, the movie one or the science fiction one? There is a lot of potential with a series of books like this, it just needs to figure out exactly what it wants to be and who the target audience is.